Us nervous before childbirth and parenting class. So much to learn about babies!
Us after class. WTH? We didn’t learn anything about babies.
The scene: Saturday’s childbirth and baby care class at one of our nation’s august university medical hospitals.
The commitment: It was going to be a long day–9 a.m. to 5 p.m.–but we knew it would be worth it.
The equipment: one blanket, two pillows, notebook, pens, snacks, a bag lunch, two bottles of water (me), six-pack of Diet Coke (him)
The outlook: Given our lack of expertise in the areas of ushering babies into the world and their care and feeding afterward, I said solemnly to my husband as we headed out the door, “It’s probably the most important class we’ll ever take in our lives.” This would even mean it usurped typing, which prior to this time I considered the most important class I’d ever taken in my life.
9:02 a.m. – After riding on the filthiest parking lot elevator in Washington, D.C., and snaking through an empty labyrinth of hospital building corridors we arrive at our destination. Even though we’re only two minutes late, the instructor waves us in without smiling so she can continue a shpiel that appears to be a good five minutes under way. We weren’t even the last couple to arrive. Here’s a tip: when half of your class roster has to lean against a wall or use the loo every five minutes, build in a grace period before you rip into lecture.
9:03 – In a special form of torture for the preggies, they hold this class in an empty floor’s lounge where they’ve apparently turn the air off because there aren’t any patients around.
9:04 – The instructor is saying something. Hope it’s not important because she’s barely rising above a whisper. The entire time her face never breaks from its dour expression and her commitment to monotone delivery is awe-inspiring. I feel I’ve made some headway when I make out a New England accent.
9:10 – We’re only 10 minutes in and our instructor, railing (quietly and without r’s) against newspapers using sensationalistic terminology in articles about childbirth says, “Newspapers have really gone downhill in the past few years.” Suuuuper. My husband cracks open the first Diet Coke of the morning.
9:20 – In a classic case of “be careful what you wish for,” I’m now wishing we had one of those hippie dippy crystal-purifying instructors that I’d initially feared we’d get. Instead I’ve got Whispering Katharine Hepburn the Newspaper Detrahctah.
9:23 – I realize that this class will in no way cover baby care — diapering, feeding, bathing, etc. — when she plugs a separate course covering those topics. Apparently I misread this one’s description. Suuuuuuper.
9:45 – Forty-five minutes in and the instructor finally looks at her class syllabus, mentions a broad topic — timing contractions — and then offers no actual information saying, “We’ll go over that later.” This will continue for the next hour.
9:50 – Needing a distraction and a snack, I dive into my baggie of apple slices. Incidentally, if you ever want to see evidence of the sham public lives pregnant women lead, watch the snacks that get pulled out at a communal meeting of their kind: apple slices, unsalted almonds, carrot sticks. Muhuh. Like we all weren’t eating spoonfuls of Duncan Hines frosting dredged through Cap’n Crunch the night before.
10:00 – The instructor divides the men and women and has each group list three positives and negatives about pregnancy. The women struggle to condense the negatives to fewer than five items in the 10 minutes allotted. My husband later reports that the men cranked out their lists in 90 seconds and talked about football the rest of the time. One guy was lamenting that his wife’s due date was initially projected to be August but then they determined it wouldn’t be until early September. The others apparently counseled him that this was nothing to worry about, provided she had the good sense not to deliver on a Saturday.
10:10 to 10:50 – The instructor provides excruciating detail about what will happen at the hospital. But not about the kind of events for which excruciatingly detailed description might actually be helpful, such as the particulars of the eviction of the baby from its uterine condo. No, she details how many questions the admitting desk worker will ask, explains how the identification bracelet will go on our wrists, demonstrates how the nurses will use hand sanitizer as they enter the room, and so forth. (I. Kid. You. Not.)
10:55 – I write the first of two notes to my husband on my otherwise-unmarred notebook sheet: “But what will the chief resident have had for lunch that day?”
11:10 – I write my second note to my husband, “If we don’t start getting some actual useful childbirth info pronto I’m all for bailing at the lunch break.” He looks at me lovingly, seemingly convinced that he made the right decision on our wedding day. He pops open his second Diet Coke to toast his good fortune.
11:15 – The only other notes that have made it onto the paper are: “Call doctor when contractions start.” “Bring iPod and speaker dock to hospital.” “Ask neighbor to look after Dakota when we go to the hospital.”
11:40 – The instructor puts in a DVD about childbirth. Finally, we’re getting somewhere! We watch a short segment about the three stages of labor: Moderately Painful, Really Painful, and Sweet Fancy Moses Get This Thing Out Now Painful. Then we watch an actual childbirth video. Twenty minutes before lunch. Much wincing and “oh God”ing ensues.
11:55 – Time to get out the pillows and blankets and hit the floor for breathing exercises. In five minutes, the instructor offers a series of relaxation techniques that might calm me down were I in a moderately long line at the DMV but would be unlikely to help while going through what I just witnessed on the DVD. I resolve to get a pre-natal yoga DVD.
Noon. Sweet, Blessed Lunch-Breaky Noon – “Get the pillows and I’ll grab the bag and let’s get out of here,” I whisper with urgency to my husband as if we’re planning a bank heist. He obliges and we bolt for the door.
1:30 – In the fern-dotted, air-conditioned Georgetown Park, we buy Mrs. Field’s cookies and sodas. We are happy, we are free. It is then that we realize we’ve cut class to go to the mall, buy junk food, and hang out with our significant other. High school rules! Take that, authority!